Sunday, October 12, 2014

Interview: Vin Deca

For this week’s interview we have keyboardist, composer, and dance-music producer Mbachi Halle, but you all know him as Vin Deca. Vin Deca’s newest release “I Encourage You” is an exceptionally uplifting club number reinforced with lyrics of positivity and the need to stay the course in reaching goals.

MW: Vin Deca, thanks so much for joining us.

VD: Thank you very much for the opportunity and more so, thank you for what you do!

MW: My pleasure! So, I noticed from your bio that you are originally from Cameroon, how old were you when you left?

VD: I was twenty when I came to Germany.

MW: Ahh, so as a young adult… What kind of an impact do you think your African upbringing had on your music creation?

VD: We only learn from what others do or have done. In Africa, you get exposed to African music, and music from the rest of the world in exactly the same amounts. You grow with a wider spectrum and much more to learn from. In my time, Youssou N’dou, Henri Dikongue and Manu Dibango were just as popular as Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Amit Kumur of Teri Kassam (India) and Joe Dassin.

MW: How old were you when you started on the keyboard, and how long was it before you started composing?

VD: I was twelve when I started playing. I started by playing only songs I really loved and made my own versions of every one of them. I was actually addicted to reconstructing people’s songs with keyboards and particularly one song, Elton John’s ‘Sacrifice’, even cost me a year in school. We had a one-year-end-exam-system and during that period I couldn’t study anything. All I did was listened to, dissected and made very many different versions of ‘Sacrifice’. I failed the exam of course and had to repeat the class. It was not until sixteen that I started composing my own songs, the age when I started selling tapes of my music.

MW: Was there anyone in particular who really encouraged you in your music as you were growing up?

VD: I grew up in one of the first commercial recording complexes in Cameroon, Bel-Pen Recordings; a label and production house that my father owned and ran. We had musicians living with us all the time, which meant we’d play with them all day long but my father didn’t like us spending too much time with them. They were very irresponsible and he didn’t want us to end up like that. They did things like get neighborhood girls pregnant and plant Marijuana on his property. He tried all he could but it was impossible for him to stop us from playing too much with them. Nuks, now a drummer in London – my brother and I will sneak out all the time, hang out and go with them wherever they went to play music. My father finally gave up trying to stop us and fully made us a part of the whole thing. I actually was head of the company until I traveled to Germany.

MW: Wow, that is quite the exposure - Speaking of “encouraging,” your new song “I Encourage You” is a great track, from the production, to the beat, and of course the vocals by Myra Maimoh are very captivating. Can you talk about how that song came together?

VD: I wrote “I Encourage You” sometime around 2006 when I was going through one of those very challenging periods of my life career wise, and had it recorded by a local artist. The meaning of that song became very clear to me in 2008 when I lost studio gear worth ten thousand euro that I sent to London and it never arrived. I was very devastated and strangely enough, “I Encourage You”, a song I had written was one the things that had a very healing effect on me. Because we felt that the song may have the same impact on many, Myra recorded it for her 2010 album “Answer’d Me” and it spent over two months on the NCM charts. It was also the most downloaded song after the single “Killing Me. I found out from checking all my music sales statistics that the song was still one of the most downloaded and streamed songs, so when the EDM bug bit me in 2013 and the label started an EDM division, it was clear that “I Encourage You” must be “EDMized” since its influence never reduced, even long after it was released in 2010.

MW: Does positivity in your music emerge naturally, or do you have to work at it?

VD: The desire and will to create stuff that must heal, build or inspire, and certainly not harm or tear down is my default setting – it is natural for me. The problem is just I could be writing powerful and positive words while using boring or negative instrumentation and inappropriate mixing techniques that would certainly skew the whole idea. So for it to work, the production part of my work must be somewhat conscious. These days, I try to create the music so it tells the whole story already. When words get in, they should only enhance the story and bring in more clarity.

MW: Shifting gears for just a second – Many of the people who visit this site are interested in the technical side of music making. Can you comment on your studio setup or any favorite pieces of gear?

VD: This is a question I was hoping not to get asked because I grew out of the religion called “gearism” but I still like knowing what people use, whose work I respect. So I’ll happily tell what I use too.

MW: [laughing] Please let me apologize for all the “gearists” out there!

VD: As far as I am concerned, room acoustics is the most important technical aspect of creating music professionally. Peter Karsten, a great acoustic engineer here in Germany transformed my room into one of the best sounding rooms I’ve heard.

As far as I am concerned, room acoustics is the most important technical aspect of creating music professionally. Peter Karsten, a great acoustic engineer here in Germany transformed my room into one of the best sounding rooms I've heard.

I compose completely in Logic (since version 4.0) with its inherent instruments, Ivory, Kontakt and all the standard stuff, and mix only in Pro Tools, which has a sound that I just simply love. I’ve been collecting samples for almost twenty years now and I have tons of them but I turn to them only when I can’t get what I need with keys and a bass guitar. My workflow is usually hybrid, going through Metric Halo converters. I love everything about those guys. I have almost all UAD plugins, Metric Halo and I also use Kush’s UBK 1, Altiverb and Soundtoys Radiator very much. But plugin compressors really still don’t cut it completely for me! Sorry about that. I find they lack something I refer to as dynamic stamina. I get work done with them no doubt but “affection”, I get from outboard gear like 1176’s, IGS Audio Compressors, BAE, P3S (magical bus compressor), some EQ’s - mostly the standard stuff. I have a thing with cables too. My whole setup is wired with Vovox cables, except headphone connectors.

MW: That sounds like an extraordinary setup! …Thinking about being in the studio, I’m curious how often you collaborate? Does it ever lead to issues in the studio or in the creative process?

VD: I use to collaborate a lot in the past but I stopped. All it brought me was trouble.

This was the typical scenario:  someone who doesn’t play any instrument hears some music in their heart, head or whatever. He tries to communicate to you what to play but has no terms to describe what he wants. He gets frantic that you do not understand him and as a result, the genius insight the world was waiting for is about to dissipate. And there was also all the politics and ego madness, especially when there is the thought of the smell of success in the air. I hated it.

These days I prefer only able mentors who criticize me. Those who can tell me exactly what is not working. They purify my work.

When I get hired by composers to complete stuff, which happens very often, and which I really enjoy, I still try to avoid being in a negative environment while I am creating so whenever possible, I prefer to shift files to and fro with updates until they get satisfied.

Also, before I get to great stuff, I make a lot of mistakes and I need them. I love being in the studio alone where I have enough room to fail myself into great stuff. 

MW: You’re very gifted with the purely instrumental tracks as well – I listened to “Angel Talk” and was just thrilled with the energy of that track. Can you recall the first time you really felt a composition “work?”

VD: That’s certainly one of the most brilliant and difficult questions I’ve been asked!

MW: Thanks, I try.

VD: I made a song called “Do or die Thing” which got me a lot of attention from the music industry around 2002. I had really no clue logic wise what I was doing but the song was stunning. Then I started being too rational and somehow still felt everything I did was great and worked well but industry professionals like radio people showed me quality problems with my work. They were always right. It took me ten years to learn how to feel again while staying rational where I had to.
The problem was I worked a lot as a mixing engineer and that used to get in my way as a composer. It was my blessing but it did curse me quite a bit since I could not think or feel pure music with my own stuff. I’d compose a great song and dance or move to it while I produced it. But then when I finished mixing it, the song became void of life and emotions. Luckily, I discovered the trick not too long ago:

The gear was there to help me become one with the music!

Beside the technical necessities, it was all about doing absolutely everything possible through the mixing process to make me dance and move even more, and when I’m done, I shouldn’t be able to sit still. The first time I experienced that was with “Angel Talk”. 

MW: So, what’s next for Vin Deca?

VD: I desire to contribute significantly to electronic dance with the next releases in an original way and I will work relentlessly on that. With your help of course! I know how difficult this is and I say it in all humility but I am tired of what this genre that just captured the world is becoming. EDM is literally cloning itself out of existence. If we continue like this, we would not even need another Steve Dahl to tear us down for we are already doing it by copying ourselves so shamelessly. I will concentrate more on using different influences like African or tropical as a humble attempt to bring in more color to EDM.

MW: Vin Deca, thank you so much for your time!

VD: I thank you too very much, especially for asking such brilliant, relevant and deep questions. Keep up!  

For more information about Vin Deca please visit his website here:

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